The Mets: An Off-Season Primer
The confetti hasn’t been entirely swept up in San Francisco and already, stories about potential Met moves this off-season have stretched into the realm of the absurd. Don’t take my word for it; check out yesterday’s Post story about Cody Ross. Mike Puma writes about “sources” and uses phrases like “could target, ” while not supplying a single attributed quote to a Met official. Mike might just as well write that his dog told him this rumor. Right on cue however, the story gets posted on Metsblog!
The Mets aren’t getting Cody Ross. They aren’t getting A.J. Pierzynski, Kyle Lohse, Russell Martin or any of the other mid-level free agents either. They may end up with one of the bottom of the barrel type signings like Austin Kearns or Kevin Gregg, but more than likely their only free agent signings will be non-roster invitee types like Chris Young and Mike Pelfrey.
Still, the Wilpons, Sandy Alderson and Co must do something this off-season. They surely know that even the most die hard of Mets fans has reached the breaking point. If they aren’t cued in by now, the drop in season ticket reservations and ad revenue will wake them up. They could remove all doubt by spending an hour online or listening to a local sports station to find out what their (former) customers really think about them.
As a public service, The Mets Today staff would like to present the ultimate guide to this year’s Mets off-season. Unlike Mike Puma, we don’t have to sell papers, so we can take a different tack on this topic. Factoring in the resources we’ve all heard are available to Alderson this winter and talking with the family pet, I think the off-season looks something like this:
4. Ike Gets Extended: The Mets make a long-term commitment to Ike Davis, giving him a contract similar to the one Jon Niese inked last year. It’s a solid move for a solid player; Davis is the top lefty power hitter in the organization. Defensively, he is around the league average at first base. His career slash line of 252/336/461 is below average for the position, but he is young enough to improve on those rates. The raise starts in 2013; but where is the money coming from? Keep reading.
3. Jason Bay Goes Home, Sort Of: The Mets ship Bay, outfielder Matt den Dekker and lefty hurler Darin Gorski to the Mariners for Chone Figgins and Franklin Gutiérrez. From Seattle’s standpoint, this trade is essentially Gutiérrez, who is the best of the major leaguers in this deal (which isn’t saying much) for den Dekker and Gorski, both of whom could end up on the M’s 25-man roster during the 2013 season. Seattle also gets rid of the unhappy Figgins and the $9M they are still committed to him. Together, Gutiérrez ($7M) and Figgins make nearly the same money as Bay, who hails from from the Canadian Pacific Northwest, hence the going home reference. The Mets cash in two bargaining chips just to get Bay off the roster, although Gutiérrez, if healthy, could challenge for the starting centerfield job and is the right-handed bat the Mets need. Considering however that Gutiérrez has been on the field about as often as Johan Santana the last few years, that might be a stretch. Figgins could end up being waived, as it is easier to swallow his contract than Bay’s. I used to really like him when he was an Angel. Speaking of which…
2. R.A. Becomes an Angel: It seems as if the Angels are angling for this deal now, getting rid of both Ervin Santana and Dan Haren immediately after the World Series. Getting Dickey is an upgrade for them and it could be a real feather in Jerry DiPoto’s cap if he lands the reigning Cy Young Award winner. So who would be coming back this way? Well, the blogosphere has rumored that the Halos are no longer enamored with outfielder Mark Trumbo, he of the right-handed swing and 99 homers in three years. I somehow can’t see them dealing that solid of an offensive force for what may end up being a one-year rental. Instead, I envision a passel of players becoming Mets. The most obvious one is catcher Hank Conger, who had a rough debut in 2012. Still the Mets do need a catcher and Conger’s ceiling is higher than anyone in the Met system or on the free agent list right now. The Mets also need a centerfielder. Peter Bourjos’ name has been mentioned a few times, but with Los Angeles declining Torii Hunter’s option, Bourjos moves to the top of their depth chart in center. Instead, the Mets could nab their toolsy outfielder Travis Witherspoon. Jonathan Mayo’s Prospect Watch site tabs Witherspoon as a 5-tool player. Tim took a step back after being elevated to the Texas League last summer, but he had a similar struggle making the adjustment from Low-A to High-A. He was hitting 319/399/470 when his latest promotion occurred. To find a full-season Met farmhand that had that type of production, you have to go all the way back to the days of Edgardo Alfonzo. Finally, the Mets will need another arm and hard throwing left hander Nick Maronde could fill that bill. Maronde played at three minor league levels last year, logging a 1.01 WHIP in just a shade under 100 innings. He made it all the way to the majors in 2012, appearing in 12 games at the end of the year. Again according to Mayo, Maronde has a plus fastball and a plus slider as well as an aptitude for making adjustments. It will be tough to lose Dickey, especially after his performance last year, although the Mets are gambling that 2012 was as good as it will get with Dickey. I think that with R.A. turning 38, along those nagging injuries and his harder than average knuckler, it might be a safe bet. Maronde, Conger and Witherspoon would be a decent haul as none are can’t-miss/blue-chipper types, but all have good upsides. Bourjos and especially Trumbo might provide more immediate dividends, but the Mets would have to surrender other pieces besides Dickey, which may result in additional holes to patch.
1. David Gets His Due: In a carefully structured deal, the Mets sign Wright to a 7-year, $102M extension. The big money happens between 2014 and 2016, when David gets $75M. The balloon coincides with the end of the Johan Santana and Bay/Seattle contracts and before some of the Mets younger players (hopefully) are due hefty increases. The Mets assume less financial risk in the back half of the deal, giving David a chance to age gracefully, without much talk about an albatross contract. This is a radical departure from the Omar Minaya era of back-loaded, no trade contracts (Wright has a limited no-trade clause). The deal essentially makes David a Met for Life, which the money aside, could be a dubious distinction!
So there you have it, an off-season that might lack in quantity but hopefully contains some quality. The Mets move money around and improve slightly at the edges. It’s all about 2014; they just won’t admit it. This team isn’t going to catch Washington or Atlanta, but the Bay blockage is gone and perhaps the Mets could get lucky with Gutiérrez. They’ve improved at catcher and added an intriguing bullpen arm. Wright and Davis are locked up, while Witherspoon joins names like Zach Wheeler and Wilmer Flores in the pipeline. They will still need some other pieces, but that’s another post…